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Airways inflammation has been associated with increased nitric oxide (NO) in the exhaled breath. It was, therefore, questioned whether exhaled NO could act as an indicator of the severity of airways inflammation in the chronic suppurative lung diseases cystic fibrosis (CF) and bronchiectasis. NO levels in a single exhalation were measured using a chemiluminescence analyser. Thirty-six patients with CF and 16 with bronchiectasis were studied and compared with 22 normal subjects and 35 asthmatic patients. All subjects were nonsmokers and all measurements were made when patients were clinically stable. In addition, exhaled NO was measured in 10 CF patients at the time of onset of an acute infective exacerbation and followed for 7 days during the treatment of the exacerbation in eight of the 10 patients. No significant differences were found in NO levels in patients with CF or bronchiectasis compared with normals (median 4.0, 5.5 and 4.4 parts per billion (ppb), respectively), but all were lower than in asthma patients (10.4 ppb). The NO levels in the CF patients at time of exacerbation were not increased and did not change during treatment. These data show that nitric oxide levels in the exhaled breath of patients with chronic suppurative lung diseases, in contrast to asthma, are not elevated, despite the presence of substantial airways inflammation. Possible explanations include poor diffusion of nitric oxide across increased and viscous airway secretions, removal of nitric oxide by reaction with reactive oxygen species in the inflamed environment and failure of upregulation of epithelial inducible nitric oxide synthase in chronic suppurative conditions.


Journal article


Eur Respir J

Publication Date





1290 - 1294


Adult, Asthma, Breath Tests, Bronchiectasis, Cystic Fibrosis, Female, Forced Expiratory Volume, Humans, Inflammation, Male, Middle Aged, Nitric Oxide, Reproducibility of Results, Respiratory System